Interview with Bink from Pearls & Swine

November 1, 2012 | Posted by rissvandal

I recently interviewed Bink, the designer and visionary behind Pearls & Swine—a brand that specializes in hats, fascinators, masks, eyepatches, and hair accessories that seems to have been plucked straight out of a surreal dream, and often appear to defy gravity. Bink also developed a sister brand, Temptress of Waikiki,  where she produces custom burlesque accessories. Bink works nonstop (she currently has over 150 items in her shop!), and her selection caters to tastes across the board—glam rock, steampunk, pop culture kawaii, rockabilly, and delicate bridalwear. In our interview, Bink explains the “mistake” that spawned her business, her inspiration, and offers a bit of advice and insight to artists and creatives who struggle with self-doubt and the pressure to lead a “conventional” career path.

Q: On your website you say that you “always intended to be sensible” but could never really settle on a conventional career path. When you decided to devote your life to your artwork, were there people in your life that discouraged you or lead you to question your decision? If so, how did you deal with those negative outside forces?

A: I was the only real block that stopped myself from being allowed to be creative. I did have some friends who questioned whether or not anyone would really be interested in unconventional headwear, but on the whole I have been extremely fortunate in mostly having support in my business. My partner Trafford Parsons is an artist and has been there for me every step of the way, even when my doubts crept back (and they do, even after years of being in business).

Q: What advice would you give to young creatives who are pressured to take a more “conventional” path in life, or who are surrounded by people who may not “get” their work?

A: Looking back I realize that, had I allowed me to be myself, a creative, instead of fighting it till I was 30, my life would be very different now. However, I do believe that everything we endure is for a reason…perhaps I had to take the journey I did to get to where I am now.

My advice to anyone is always to know you are going to make it if you want something enough. Many creatives aren’t very driven or confident in their art. The secret of confidence is pretend–one day it will come but you have to have determination and a disregard for wealth…. just go for it!

Q: Do you have any formal art or design training? Tell me a bit about your artistic interests and influences growing up, and how they developed over time.

A: My parents are both creative people so I guess creativity is in my blood. I did very badly in art at school, as I had my own style. At school I was told that I had to replicate the masters and without that I couldn’t be a great artist.

In a way I think sometimes studying can form boundaries, which if you look at many graduates they are all creating the same work, working with the same rules. I feel I have benefited from being my own teacher. While creating, if something isn’t going right I just keep going as I will be lead by my senses—I trust them to find a way around the obstacles. My mistakes tend to become my triumphs as they create new creative paths ways in my head!

Q: Did Pearls and Swine start as an online business, or did you first sell your creations locally? Tell me a bit about some of your very first clientele.

A: I started on Bricklane in London. It wasn’t a huge success as I was living in West Yorkshire and traveling down each weekend. Generally I just covered my basic expenses and I am not a natural sales person. So my business works well online. I sell to customers all over the world as I am very comfortable dealing with special requests and bespoke orders which I take via email and Facebook. Pearls & Swine customers tend to be quirky, interesting, fun people who want to stand out from the crowd though I equally well create more demure headwear for the less brave customer!

Q: Tell me about the first hat or hair accessory ever made—what did it look like, who was it for, what were some of the challenges you faced?

A: I first made wide-brimmed sunhats in my late teens. But the year I turned 30 I knitted a scarf, which is how my real journey began. I tried to knit a flower to decorate the scarf… this didn’t work as my knitting skills are basic, but I knitted a small circle which I put on my head for some reason and then thought: “If I make this bigger it would be like a mini fascinator base” so I did that. It was a mistake that became the seed of Pearls & Swine!

Q: Describe your personal style. Also, are the majority of your creations something you would normally wear yourself?

A: I am not really able to be summed up in a single word but I think that my personal style includes a bit of everything, as I have been through many phases. I love different cultures, different eras, loud colour, big accessories… I dress as a bumble bee one day, a gaudy vintage 70’s kaftan, dungarees with a stripy top and Docs, a 50’s dress with cute heels, Minnie Mouse style buns in my hair. I do love dressing up (not the naff stuff from fancy dress shops)…. And yes, I wear my creations as it’s advertising and it’s a fun way to connect with people.

Q: You explain that everything regarding Pearls and Swine is done exclusively by you—design, creation, website, emails, social networking, mailing, etc (wow!). So do you ever get to take days off? When you’re not working, what do you do for fun/what kind of things interest you?

A: I am currently trying to force myself to take time off from work. It’s not easy when you are self employed as you can’t switch it off. I haven’t stopped since January, so I am starting to get a bit tired as I have put myself under a lot of pressure, but it’s hard as I love what I do so much it doesn’t feel like work. I love going to art shows, museums, galleries, shopping for haberdashery (yes, still work), meeting friends for cocktails, afternoon tea in posh hotels, charity shops and flea markets picking up tat and inspiration…so apart from the cocktails I am afraid it’s really all really connected to my work! However I would love to get more into sewing again and photography, so these will hopefully be distractions from my work, however I am sure both will end up being involved too.

Q: Tell me about the one creation to date that you’re most proud of, and why.

A: Hard question to answer, I always love the item I am working on and once made I move on to the next one which I love the most… I am increasingly being drawn to creating very detailed pieces. I want to spend a lot of time creating one of kind ornate items like my Virgin Mary headdresses. I envy designers who are able to remake old ideas over and over for years and years…. My headwear needs a head and a person to come to life, so once made I look forward to it selling so that it can be enjoyed. A hat in a box is a very sad thing, it is an object of joy that should be worn. My connection to the item ends very soon after I have completed it. Like I say, I love creating and I have a million ideas in my head, the creative beast never sleeps!

Q: If you could see any one performer, celebrity, or public figure outfitted in Pearls and Swine, who would it be?

There is a blog called Advanced Style, devoted to older ladies in New York…. it’s just too fabulous for words! These women are who I will be one day, they are true fashion icons in my opinion. My favourite is a lady called Ilona Royce Smithkin. She is in her 90’s and is too darling for words, plus she has incredible style and wit…. I would make her something in a heartbeat.

I am not interested in fashion or celebrities, I am interested in art—being art to be precise. People who are or were living, breathing works of art, they are the people who inspired and excite me!

Photo Credits: 1. Model: Charlotte Amelia Marlow/MUA: Ayleigh Heslop /Photographer: Katelizabeth Photography: 2. Photographed by Diana Thompson: 3. Model: Doe Deere of Lime Crime Make Up 4. Model: Catherine Senior/MUA: Ayleigh Heslop/Photographer: Katelizabeth Photography: 5. Modeled by Miss Lily Stark/Photographed by Mudkiss: 6. Photographed by Diana Thompson:


One Response to Interview with Bink from Pearls & Swine

  1. I’m glad Bink pursued the path of head wear fashion because if not we wouldn’t have the privilege to see such quality-made masks and hair accessories. The sample mask above was my favorite for the set because of its elegant touch with a bit of mystery due to its color.

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